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Writing a Gender-Neutral Job Description: There's More to It Than You Think

Gender equality is something that all organizations should strive for. Beyond the ethical and moral ...

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Gender Neutral Job DescriptionsGender equality is something that all organizations should strive for. Beyond the ethical and moral case for a more equitable workplace, there’s a practical reason gender equality should be top of mind for every leader: Organizations with gender equality are more profitable.

There are numerous systemic and cultural issues that affect gender equity in the workplace, but one of the most misunderstood is the job description. To attract the best and widest pool of candidates, job descriptions must be gender-neutral. However, writing a gender-neutral job description isn’t as simple as removing the guilty pronouns. But once you learn a few best practices, you’ll widen your hiring pool and increase your bottom line. Let’s dig in.

Forget the Third Person

Let’s start with the first step to writing a gender-neutral job description: dropping gendered pronouns.

I suggest using “you,” because it keeps gender from even entering the equation. But “you” also brings the job seeker just a bit closer to the description. Your job posting isn’t going to be a choose your own adventure book, but using the second person will make it easier for an applicant to picture themselves in the position.

Remember Your Adjectives

I wish I could say that changing your pronouns was even half the battle, but our subconscious biases are affected perhaps even more by adjectives. Research has shown that we associate certain adjectives with men and others with women. For example, for some reason, we associate being “competitive,” “outspoken” and “competent” with men. Words like “sensitive,” “collaborative” and “compassionate” are typically used to refer to women — as is “bossy.”

Some of these words might seem completely innocuous, but that’s the thing with subconscious bias — it’s subconscious. So as you craft your job description, seek some outside help. I like to use a free tool called Gender Decoder to check my job descriptions for bias. All you have to do is paste your job description into the text box and it analyzes it for bias.

Only List Essential Requirements

When it comes to creating the best job listings, one of the most common pointers is to only list the requirements that are essential. Brevity helps attract a wider pool of candidates, but it also has a positive correlation on the gender diversity of your candidate pool. Research has shown that women are more inclined to apply for a job if their skills line up with 100% of the requirements, while men will apply for a job if they only meet 60% of the qualifications.

As you examine your job description, make sure that you’re only listing what’s required to perform the tasks that are part of the position. I know that all TA professionals have a wishlist of skills they’d love to see in a new hire that may not directly apply to that position, but make sure those are differentiated from the required skills.

Finally, you may also want to consider skipping the requirement of a college degree. This isn’t to say that your job may not necessarily require a degree, but many college degrees trend toward specific genders. More men, for example, have computer programming degrees, while more women have teaching degrees. Those are very broad examples, of course, but I point them out because of the role that stereotypes play in our culture. By asking for a specific degree, you run the risk of unintentionally minimizing the number of a particular gender who might apply for a position.

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